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Recently graduated student bloggers Ali, Alex, and Aditi are wrapping up their stories for the blog.  First to report on the conclusion of her Fletcher experience is Ali.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was writing to you with excitement about the end of first year and my summer internship at YUM! Brands.  Today, I write with even more enthusiasm about the completion of my degree and my return to that same place.

Ali, final postFletcher has been a wonderful two years for me.  I’ve made new friends and colleagues; gained the knowledge and experience I need to transition to the private sector; accepted a fantastic job in my hometown; and completed a capstone project that took me back to Brussels, where my professional journey began.

It was interesting to end my Fletcher career back in Belgium, thanks to capstone research funding from Fletcher’s Institute for Business in the Global Context.  During my spring break there, terrorist attacks at the airport and local metro station made international news that showed me Belgium is not the same place I lived before.  Its quirky citizens and hidden, lively bars have become more exposed to worldly cares.  Belgian companies are being acquired by international competitors; family brewers are innovating to stay relevant amongst microbrewers; and ISIS is launching a full assault on the country.  Just like the little country I love, I have changed and become more exposed to the world, too.  While many students at Fletcher dedicate their lives to careers abroad, I can’t imagine not using my new travels and knowledge to return home and create change from there.

At YUM! Brands, I’ll be working to explore the material impact of extra-financial environmental, social, and governance issues and to improve the company’s performance and transparency around them.  I’ll communicate proactively with key stakeholders, like investors, and use their feedback to drive internal change, as well.

Fletcher isn’t just a place for students desiring careers in governments and non-profits abroad.  It’s also a great training ground for people looking to transform the world of business right here in America.

See everyone back in Kentucky soon!
Ali

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Three student bloggers will graduate on Sunday, Alex, Aditi, and Ali.  They’ve all been particularly great to work with and I’ll miss them!  You can expect to see their words of farewell in the coming weeks, after they have graduated and had a chance to process their experience.  For today, we have Alex’s Annotated Curriculum for his two years in the MIB program.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
Strategy Consultant, Monitor Deloitte in Washington, DC
General Manager, Valsek Nutritional Foods in Addis Ababa

Fields of Study
International Energy Studies (self-designed Field of Study)
International Finance and Banking

Capstone Topic
The PPA Crutch: The Implications of Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreements in New England (Advisor: Professor Kelly Sims Gallagher)

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Develop business models and financing mechanisms to bring renewable energy to scale in new markets

Curriculum Overview

Semester One

Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance
Financial Statement Management
Strategic Management (½ credit, Summer pre-session)
Managerial Economics
The Arts of Communication
Climate Change and Clean Energy Policy
Managing Operations in Global Companies: How the World’s Best Companies Operate (Audit)

My first semester was all about laying the groundwork for a meaningful time at Fletcher.  The core MIB classes, especially Finance, helped our cohort develop the key business skills necessary to be successful at Fletcher and beyond.  Perhaps more importantly, taking a few classes as a group really brought the MIB class together, which has been invaluable both academically and personally.  I also greatly enjoyed my elective classes like Communication and Clean Energy Policy, as mentioned in previous posts, and the professors have turned into great mentors over time.

Semester Two

International Business Strategy & Operations
Marketing Management
Macroeconomics
Political Economy & Business of the EU
Engineering, Economics, and Regulation of the Electric Power Sector (at MIT)
Global Private Equity: From Money In to Money Out (Audit)

In my second semester, I finished up my MIB requirements and started to delve deeper into my energy concentration.  My business classes felt very much like B-School, in terms of the content they covered and the hard skills they built, with one big difference: I was taking them at an international affairs school.  As such, my professors and classmates brought an incredible depth and breadth of international experience to bear, and the policy context was always discussed.  I also took an enlightening Electric Power Sector class with a bunch of engineers at MIT, which really got me into the nitty-gritty details of how power systems work.  Also, Fletcher’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy sponsored me to go to an energy conference at which I was able to wrangle an internship during the semester at Commonwealth Bay, a wind-energy private equity firm, where I performed market analysis and due diligence on wind projects.

Summer Internship
BlueWave Renewables

One of my professors introduced me to BlueWave Renewables, a solar-energy developer, where I got an exciting opportunity to apply what I had been learning in my classes and to gain further exposure to the thriving cleantech ecosystem in Boston.  As discussed in my previous post, I helped build out a platform for community solar, a new business model designed to bring solar to the three quarters of Americans who cannot own their own solar panels.  Thanks to my business and energy classes, I was able to hit the ground running and make an impact in a short period of time.

Semester Three

International Business Transactions
Large Investment and International Project Finance
Petroleum in the Global Economy
Leadership: Building Teams, Organizations, and Shaping Your Path
The Art and Science of Statecraft

The third semester was my first opportunity to truly cast a wide net across the amazing diversity of classes offered at Fletcher.  International Business Transactions covered topics such as contract law, which, although it may sound dry, is where “the rubber hits the road” in business; I discovered this when I was starting a business in Ethiopia, and it is one of the reasons I decided to come to Fletcher.  Project Finance and Petroleum complemented each other very well, and contributed to my Field of Study requirements.  Leadership, which was taught by a great professor on loan from the Harvard Business School, provided a valuable soft-skill counterpoint to more analytical courses I had taken so far.  Finally, Statecraft was an interesting foray into the mental models of one of our well-known professors, renowned equally for his colorful analogies and for his direct language.  On top of all this, I also worked with the wonderful Fletcher Social Investment Group to lead a team of classmates on a consulting engagement for EverVest, a renewable energy financial analysis software startup.

Semester Four

Energy, Entrepreneurship, and Finance
International Energy Policy
Political Economy and Business Context of Latin America
International Financial Management
Management, Finance, and Regulation of Public Infrastructure in Developing Countries (at Harvard)

My fourth and final semester has been great because the foundation I have built up over the last year and a half has enabled me to engage with the material in a way I could not have done before.  My two energy classes are a nice culmination to the thrust of my studies here, and indeed they provide timely input as I wrap up my thesis for the capstone requirement.  International Financial Management, affectionately dubbed “Jacques Deux” after the French-American professor who has taught a notorious regimen of finance classes for decades, proved to be as difficult and enlightening as promised.  The Infrastructure class at the Harvard Kennedy School has provided another good perspective on the matter, and a chance to meet new like-minded people.  Finally, I have supplemented my studies by conducting energy policy research for a Fletcher alumnus at EnergySage, an online marketplace for solar.

I am excited by my prospects post-Fletcher, but know that I will be sad to leave this place.  Throughout my two years here, I have had the pleasure to work with supportive professors and a diverse yet cohesive set of classmates.  As demonstrated above, Fletcher has also consistently opened doors for me, both at other top-tier schools and at cool companies.  I know I will look back fondly on my time here, and now understand more and more why the Fletcher community is so strong.

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I’m always amazed and impressed at how Fletcher students organize their lives.  They all have a full slate of academic commitments, but they also want to engage with the community in many ways.  For student blogger Adnan, the School’s traditional “culture nights” have been a highlight throughout the year.

On an April weekend evening, for the first time in my life, I stuck my face in a pie.  It felt funny, but tasted really good.  Sadly, there was no time to savor the chunky apple filling because I only had a minute to eat as much of it as I could — without using my hands — as my friends watched and cheered.  While struggling to finish, I learned an important lesson: having dinner before entering a pie-eating contest is not the best idea.  (In my defense, the barbequed chicken, mac and cheese, and corn bread served earlier were hard to resist.)  I lost, but the experience is one I will likely remember fondly for many years to come.  A few minutes later, I was all cleaned up and back on stage for my first-ever swing dance performance, which was reminiscent of scenes from the 1978 Hollywood blockbuster, Grease.  April is a particularly busy time of the year, so I hardly had time to practice, but a few lessons from my very talented classmates made me performance-worthy.  Or so I hope.  And thankfully, the motion didn’t trigger my digestive tract into reverse action.

Like the four culture nights before it, Americana Night, the last one for the year, was a huge success.  Culture nights have been one of the highlights of my Fletcher experience, and I’m proud to have performed in all but one of them.  Performances feature students in dances, songs, fashion shows, poetry recitals, trivia quizzes, and skits that give their classmates a glimpse of the region being honored.  And the variety of ethnic food that’s served gets us lined up in a queue that often wraps the entire venue.  The year kicked off with Asia Night in October.  Given the region’s rich diversity, the evening’s entertainment ranged from Indonesian pop songs to classical Nepalese dance.  I participated in a Bollywood dance segment, and it was heartening to see the enthusiasm with which my international friends learned each step.  Their bhangra moves would easily put many of my friends back home in Pakistan to shame.

Adnan, salsa

Fiesta Latina salsa dancers

Fiesta Latina in November was my personal favorite because I got to learn salsa.  It’s something I had always wanted to do, so I was particularly diligent about practice, and ended up performing better than I had expected.

Mediterranean & European Night in February saw performances ranging from flamenco and belly dance to dabke, hora, and even a chest-hair competition.  I sang a French pop song with a group of Francophone friends.  People who asked me afterward were surprised to learn that I don’t speak French.  At Africana Night in March, it was good to only be a part of the audience for a change and watch my classmates perform dances like batuku and kuduro while enjoying goat curry and injera.

Not only do culture nights celebrate the diversity of our community in a manner that is inclusive and fun, they’re a Fletcher tradition that reflects the school’s spirit like few other events do.  On the one hand students take ownership of the cultural traditions they are most familiar with to ensure things are done right; on the other, they sign up to learn whatever they find exciting.  Performance leaders generously lend their time to teach and practice with their peers until they’re ready to be on stage.  We also lend and borrow ethnic clothing items to help each other build outfits and costumes for performances.  In many ways, culture nights embody what Fletcher represents: learning through engaging and sharing, and having a good time doing it.

Adnan, Med Night

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Less than a month remains before graduation in May.  Let’s take a look at the two-year Annotated Curriculum of Aditi, one of our graduating bloggers.

Pre-Fletcher Experience
Dasra, Mumbai, India
PRS Legislative Research, New Delhi, India

Fields of Study
Development Economics
Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (self-designed)

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Technology for development; monitoring and evaluation

Curriculum Overview

Semester One

I came to Fletcher with an interest in technology for development and in design, monitoring, and evaluation.  I was lucky to start my year off with the Design and Monitoring module, where I not only learned a great deal, but also made some of my closest friends at Fletcher.  I also decided to take some basic quantitative classes such as statistics and quantitative methods in order to help me feel more prepared for classes down the road.  Social Network Analysis and Corporate Social Responsibility were courses I took to try and explore new areas — although I came to Fletcher with a very clear sense of what I wanted to do, I also wanted to make sure that I tried out some new subjects.

Semester Two

After spending winter break with friends in the warmer climes of New Orleans and Austin, I returned early to Fletcher to dive into Evaluation, the second module of the Design, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DME) course series.  My spring semester was focused on specific skills I knew I wanted to gain before the summer and before second year, so that I would have the option to take courses that I found more challenging.  I took my econometrics class at the Friedman School in downtown Boston since the Fletcher course was over-subscribed, which turned out to be a great experience.  In addition to furthering my knowledge of monitoring and evaluation, I also brushed up on basic research methods and had the chance to learn more about financial inclusion, a topic about which I had heard a lot but never had the chance to formally study.  The semester was also made more challenging by the fact that I was working more hours a week at my campus job than I could realistically handle, but in retrospect, I’m glad I took the opportunity to earn a little extra money for my summer internship!

Summer Internship
Manos de Madres, Kigali, Rwanda

Since I already wrote about my summer internship, I’ll just say a few quick words about how my academics at Fletcher fit into it.  My courses in design, monitoring, and evaluation and financial inclusion really gave me the tools to apply to my work with Manos de Madres — from conducting a Theory of Chance exercise with the team in Kigali, to thinking through how the savings group program could be improved, I found myself falling back on my Fletcher classes time and again.  I also spent some time over the summer conducting research for my Capstone Project.

Semester Three

I returned to Fletcher early once again, this time to be the teaching assistant for the DME course series.  I hadn’t had much of a break or a holiday over the summer, but decided to dive right into my year and challenge myself with my courses.  I had taken so many requirements in the previous year in order to build up to taking a certain set of classes, and I was loath to let any of those go — and so I ended up (very happily) over-extending myself and learning more in one semester than I could ever have imagined.  By the end of the year, I couldn’t believe my newfound comfort with numbers, or the confidence with which I could read and interpret statistics.  Although the course load was incredibly hard, I don’t think I have ever worked harder or been prouder of myself.  On the flip side, I didn’t have quite as much fun enjoying all the other wonderful things that Fletcher has to offer, and so I decided that come spring semester, I would focus on a select few things and aim to do them well, while spending time enjoying the full Fletcher experience.

Semester Four

After a rushed and exciting trip back home to India for a friend’s wedding, I came back early as the teaching assistant for the Evaluation module of the DME series.  In true “senioritis” fashion, I realized I had left some of my requirements to the end of my time at Fletcher, and found two of my credits filled by those courses.  Given that I wanted to focus on my Capstone, I enrolled in an Independent Study with my advisor, Professor Jenny Aker, and then took two half-credit courses in topics that seemed very interesting to me but that I had little knowledge of.  So far, the semester has been a good balance, and I have been careful not to overcommit, to make time for enjoying friends, lectures, and all the other events that Fletcher has to offer.

Of course, I also have to make sure that I find time to apply to jobs and figure out what comes next for me after this wonderful journey — so cross your fingers and hope that my next (and last!) post on this blog as a Fletcher student brings good news!

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I have a little something different to offer today.  Remember Mirza?  He was a MALD student who wrote for the blog in 2013-14 and 2014-2015, and since then he has been alternating work that builds on his Fletcher studies with a continuation of the music career he had pre-Fletcher, with the duo Arms and Sleepers (AAS).  Recently, I read something he had posted on his Facebook page and asked if I could share it on the blog.  It struck me as bringing together so much of what makes Mirza interesting — his personal history, his directness and honesty, his work as a musician, and the insights he will have developed at Fletcher.  I’m glad he agreed to let me share his thoughts.  Post-Fletcher careers in the arts are not typical, but those graduates who pursue them are not alone. 

As a further introduction, today Mirza noted, “I have performed in Georgia the country and Georgia the U.S. state; Moscow, Idaho and Moscow, Russia; Athens, Georgia and Athens, Greece; (the) Mexico and New Mexico.”  He definitely covers a lot of territory.  Speaking of which, let me share his upcoming tour schedule.  If you live or are traveling in any of these locations, I’m sure Mirza would be happy to see you.  He has always welcomed Fletcher alumni, students, and even applicants to his performances in the past.  

And with that, I’ll let Mirza share his story.  

I’ve been telling this story at my shows on the current tour so I’ll share it here as well, especially as I am in northern Greece at the moment.

Being a musician and doing this for a living, I often feel conflicted about the importance and impact of what I do, compared to what’s happening in the world.  I arrived at Amsterdam airport the morning of the Brussels airport bombings, and was traveling to Greece via Brussels airport last week.  I am now in northern Greece about to play three shows, practically right next to the refugee camps where people have only one thing on their mind: survival.  I’ve been on that side as well.  When I left Bosnia with my mother in 1992, we only had survival on our mind, too.  We were lucky to escape the war, but we wanted the world to pay attention to our struggles and help us start a new life somewhere else.  Almost every country closed its borders to us, and hours (many hours) spent waiting in line at the Norwegian/Swedish/Canadian/etc. embassies resulted in nothing but rejection.  We were lucky, once again, to be taken by the U.S. after years of trying.

Today, I am on the other side, doing something I love and something that I helped build myself.  I perform music across the world, and even if I am only a small artist, I feel incredibly privileged and lucky that people are willing to pay me to come to their country and play a show.  So as I am writing this in Thessaloniki, Greece, I feel weird because I think about some western artist who might have been performing in Croatia at the same time that my mother and I were traveling on ferries and buses with two suitcases looking for a better future.  Now that western artist is me.

I keep saying that music is important, because it is.  At almost every show I meet someone who tells me how much our music has impacted him/her.  In Bristol, UK, a girl was crying after our show because she heard her favorite song live; in Chongqing, China, someone told me our CD was the first she ever purchased outside of China; in Guatemala City, the show organizer told me that our music opened his eyes (ears?) eight years ago to all kinds of new music he never knew about before; in St. Petersburg, Russia, a young girl told me that she has a heart condition and can’t go to loud shows, as per her doctor, but came to my show anyway and felt free for the first time in a long time; a girl in Poznan, Poland recently got sick and ended up in a wheelchair — she told me that my show was an hour during which she could forget about all the overwhelming negativity in her life; in Ukraine in the summer of 2014, I was thanked endlessly for not canceling my tour and for being one of the only artists to play in the eastern part of the country; in 2009, we wrote a song that was the first thing a newborn in Nashville, Tennessee heard; a guy flew on a plane in Russia for the first time just to come to an AAS show; and I continue receiving Facebook messages from young people in Tehran, Iran telling me how much our music has been influential in the city’s underground electronic music scene.  These are not ego-boosters, but little stories that are important to me because they involve people’s actual lives, and it is unbelievably humbling to have any amount of impact in someone else’s life.

So I don’t know, I continue feeling conflicted because I’ve been on both sides — I’ve been a refugee who nobody wanted and I’ve been a teenager/adult who needed music to get through difficult times.  As I play these shows in northern Greece over the next three nights, I’ll be doing plenty of self-examination and figuring out how to best contribute positively in this messy world, with and without music.

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Continuing our return to spring break, along with yesterday’s post by McKenzie, today we’ll read about Tatsuo’s trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories.  Fletcher offered a trek to this region, but Tatsuo will explain that he ended up joining students from Harvard Kennedy School for their trek.

Over the recent spring break, Fletcher students organized a Fletcher Policy Trek to Israel.  I applied for Fletcher’s trek, but I wasn’t accepted because there was a lot of competition for the available places; however, I had another opportunity to join such a trek to Israel, through Harvard Kennedy School.  Many events at HKS welcome the participation of Fletcher students.  I think that having access to the resources of one of the world’s largest universities is a big advantage of Fletcher.

In line with this, I eventually joined HKS’s Israel trek.  It was a little more costly than that of Fletcher because of the size.  (HKS’s trek had over 100 students, while Fletcher’s trek is limited to about 50 participants. The funding resources were about equal, which meant I needed to pay more.)  But the places we visited were almost the same and I was also pleased to make friends with enjoyable and interesting students from HKS and other Harvard schools.

I knew something about Israel and the neighboring Palestinian territories as a Japanese public officer and a student of international relations.  However, through the entire trek, I realized that knowledge from books (or the internet) is just knowledge itself.  Everything I saw, everywhere I went, and everyone I met were interesting, thoughtful, and impressive.

Tatsuo, Golan 2In an area of Israel near the Gaza district, we saw concrete-covered bus stops and other shelters to avoid rocket bombing from Gaza.  The IDF base at the Gaza border crossing had a very serious atmosphere.  On the other hand, in the Golan Heights, the other area fronting a conflict zone, we were surprised by the peaceful scenery.  We drove through an old Syrian Army headquarters, trenches, broken battle tanks, and dead villages.  We also saw an ISIS controlled town, Quneitra from the top of the hill in the Golan Heights.  The Syrian Army and ISIS are still fighting over the area, but UN peacekeeping officers seemed to be relaxed and welcomed us to take a picture with them.  There were also many tourists chatting and drinking coffee.  The contrast between the peaceful scenery, old military facilities, and the ongoing conflict area was very strange.

The wallThe contrast between the Palestinian areas and Israeli occupied villages in the West Bank was also thought-provoking.  Over the separation wall/security fence, we faced an undeveloped and struggling community.  Almost all buildings placed black plastic tanks to store water on the roofs.  The landscape with many steep hills seemed to be hard to cultivate.  By contrast, the Israeli villages were well developed, beautiful, and clean.  I had already understood that the Israeli people enjoyed well-developed lives, unlike those of the Palestinians.  But I was moved by the clear and sad contrast in very close vicinity.

When we walked around the old city of Jerusalem, the guide said we walked on the floor of the Jewish district and on the roof of the Muslim district at the same time.

Israel is very small country.  We could see the skyscrapers in Tel Aviv from the hills of the West Bank.  However, I was surprised by the power of Israel.  I don’t mean the military power.  There were modern and developed cities, well-maintained infrastructure, beautiful cultivated fields, and green forests.  I heard that most trees in Israel were specially planted, not wild.  Compared with other Middle East countries that I have been to, the land of Israel seemed to be an oasis in the desert.  I was impressed by the power but I also felt mixed emotions.  The oasis did not benefit the surrounding region and people, including the Palestinian people, unlike a natural oasis that can feed anyone who visits there.

Western WallWhile I was moved by such interesting but complex experiences, I also enjoyed the trek by swimming in the Dead Sea, riding camels, and of course, eating and drinking!  In particular, the region has a lot of historical sites.  Masada, the ancient fortress of Jewish rebels against the Roman Empire was one of the most interesting places for me.  I climbed the hill using the ramp that the Roman Army built for attacking thousands of years ago, and from the steep edge, I observed the walls and camps of the great empire.

The entire trek was a very nice opportunity for me.  Although I could always visit Israel by myself, on the trek I visited places that would be hard to go to if I went by myself.  I met people who are too busy to meet with a typical tourist such as Salam Fayyad, the former prime minister of the Palestine Authority, and Yair Lapid, the former minister of finance of Israel.  And I shared the time and my feelings with many interesting Harvard friends.

Now, I am still struggling to catch up on the tasks that I had to skip because HKS’s spring break was one week before that of Fletcher.  But the trek was surely worth the hard work.  If you will be at Fletcher next spring, I strongly recommend that you join Fletcher’s or HKS’s Israel Trek, or another interesting study trek that might be offered!

Tatsuo collage

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This week is April vacation week for Massachusetts school children, and I’m going to use that as my explanation for turning the clock back to the March spring break for Fletcher students.  Student bloggers McKenzie and Tatsuo will each describe their travels far from campus.  First, McKenzie writes about the trip she planned with friends.

Hey all,

I’m back from a brief blog hiatus these past few months and want to share an update from an amazing spring break trip I took at the end of March.  Along with five other Fletcher friends, I traveled to New Delhi, India for what was one of the more action-packed yet wonderful spring breaks I’ve had.

Before @ Holi

McKenzie, third from left, and Fletcher friends with their host.

After 22 hours of travel, our crew arrived in hazy New Delhi at roughly 5:00 a.m. on Saturday morning.  Unsure of the time and date, we hopped in a car sent by a classmate of ours who grew up in the city and we sped toward her family’s home, where we were greeted with hot showers and a wonderful, homemade breakfast.

Soon we loaded back in a car and headed just outside the south side of Delhi to a garment factory in Faridabad.  A classmate on our trip who previously worked at Gap arranged the visit, as the factory was the first in Gap Inc.’s network to launch the PACE (Personal Advancement & Career Achievement) program, designed to empower women working in the factory and and to provide leadership development to enhance their careers and build confidence.  After learning about the program’s origins, we met with some of the women who had attended the program and since advanced to line management positions.  Then, we got to tour the factory and see the production first-hand.  The experience overall was a lot to take in, but it was truly a Fletcher-esque opportunity.

Following the factory visit, we returned to our friend’s home in time to change and head to her cousin’s house to watch what we learned was a very important cricket match.  If my understanding is correct, India-Pakistan cricket matches of the type and level we got to watch are not very frequent, which meant the celebration was on par with some of the better Super Bowl parties I’ve heard about back in the States.  At around 11:00 p.m. that night, we returned home for some much-needed sleep.  And that was just the first day.

Group @ Taj MahalOver the next few days, we traveled to Agra and Jaipur to see several famous monuments, treat ourselves to some fabulous Indian food, and browse Jaipur’s famous fabric and other markets.  On Wednesday afternoon, we drove back to New Delhi in time for one of the greatest national holidays I’ve had the privilege to experience: Holi.

Holi is a Hindu religious festival that, from what I was told, celebrates the conquering of good over evil and the coming of spring.  The night before Holi, many people light a bonfire, which signifies the burning of Holika.  Our hosts also tossed wheat chaffs into the fire as a symbol of thanks for the impending harvest.

The next day, we had the opportunity to “play Holi” with our friend’s extended family, which consisted first of a short Hindu ceremony with all the family present.  The ceremony ends with some tame additions of colored powder to the foreheads of those present, after which the family moves to an outdoor courtyard and the fun really begins.  While you start the day in pristinely clean clothes, you end up covered in pink, blue, green, yellow, red, and orange dye – in your clothes, in your hair, on your face, and in my case even in your contact lenses (one of mine was bright yellow!).  Fletcher does HoliEverywhere.  I promise, it’s a great time.  The most wonderful part of Holi is that truly everyone participates.  Young and old, men and women, everyone joins in and plays.  The kids of the family even developed a full attack plan complete with code words: they hoped to distract us by shouting “hamburger!” then lure us “with words” to be subsequently doused by water balloons and water guns.  I suppose they have a few more years to learn the finer points of diplomacy and international affairs…

Holi traditions - dye barrelThe day culminated in what has to be a family-specific tradition: each of us in turn was dunked in a barrel drum of homemade, bright yellow flower dye.  Even three weeks after Holi, there were still minor tints of that yellow in my hair.  It was a great reminder of a wonderful trip, and is a great example of the many ways that Fletcher students contrive to fill their time with enriching yet adventurous trips during their time away from school.

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Four years ago I reached out to a few students and asked them to write for a new Student Stories feature on the blog.  I ask these volunteers to write four posts each year, mostly on topics of their choosing.  Not all quite meet the mark, but I understand that it can be hard to take time to write a post while also writing for so many other classroom-related purposes.  I try not to assign subjects for their posts.  Rather, they write about topics of importance or interest to them.  Because the spring always brings new readers, I want to reintroduce each of the students who have contributed their stories.

This year’s writers are:

Adnan: first-year MALD student from Pakistan

McKenzie: first-year MIB student

Tatsuo: first-year MALD student from Japan

Aditi: second-year MALD student from India

Alex: second-year MIB student

Ali: second-year MIB student, who originally applied through Fletcher’s Map Your Future pathway to admission

And, on a time-available basis, Roxanne, F14, will write about her experiences with the PhD program, having previously written about her two years in the MALD program.

Previous year’s writers were:

Maliheh, F13, MALD

Mirza, F14, MALD

Scott, F14, MIB

Diane, F15, MALD

Liam, F15, MALD

Mark, F15, MIB

And in the first year of this fledgling effort, I also included a first-year graduate, Manjula, who gave me the idea to create Student Stories, which then led to the posts from First-Year Alumni.  I hope you’ll enjoy scrolling through and reading about their Fletcher experiences.

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Throughout their time at Fletcher, the Admissions Blog’s student writers primarily discuss their extracurricular lives, whether through student activities, internships, or the job hunt.  But I have been asking all the second-year bloggers to provide an overview of their academic work by creating an “annotated curriculum.”  As you’ll see from Ali‘s notes below, a lot of thought went into her course selections for the MIB program and, in the context of her other posts, I hope it will paint a picture of her curricular life.  (Note that (1) MIB students take an “overload” of five credits in two of their four semesters, and (2) Ali switched programs directly before starting her first semester.)

Pre-Fletcher Experience
Program Manager, Fulbright Commission, Brussels, Belgium

Fields of Study
Strategic Management and International Consultancy
International Business and Economic Law

Post-Fletcher Professional Goals
Investor relations and corporate responsibility

Curriculum Overview

I came to Fletcher to learn how to promote private-sector investments in international social and environmental initiatives.  As I prepare to leave, I’m confident I’ll be able to use my new corporate finance vocabulary and arsenal of corporate responsibility strategies, gleaned from the classes below, to do just that.

Semester One (5 credits)

Registering for Fletcher’s Strategic Management summer pre-session course was one of the best decisions of my Fletcher career.  Coming from Belgium’s public sector, I wanted to introduce myself to basic business concepts and arrive early to campus to give myself time to adjust.  I enjoyed the course material and MIB students so much that, by the time the Fall semester started, I switched from the MALD to the MIB program myself!  The Admissions team made the application/transition process easy, and my decision resulted in a more structured curriculum with the opportunity to take more credits overall.  I slowly strengthened my quantitative skills in the Corporate Finance, Accounting, and Managerial Economics courses similar to those found at most business schools, and supplemented them with two electives in Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability to familiarize myself with the field.  These courses gave me the confidence I needed to assume leadership of Fletcher’s Net Impact Club and begin networking with corporate responsibility professionals from Coke, Southwest Airlines, and other leading companies at the network’s 2015 annual conference.

Semester Two (5 Credits)

The second semester of my first year was full of more MIB requirements – marketing, regional studies, macroeconomics, and stats.  My regional EU studies course was particularly insightful because Professor Laurent Jacques is an EU citizen and provided a firsthand perspective of the political and business environment there.  Luckily, I still had room for two electives since this course and marketing were only half credits, so I took International Business Strategy & Operations and Lean Six Sigma, for which I cross registered at Tufts University’s Gordon Institute.  International Business Strategy & Operations was one of my favorite classes at Fletcher – I enjoyed working with classmates to make recommendations about where to invest in sovereign bonds, and I used the class paper I wrote about Brown-Forman’s internationalization opportunities as an incubator for my capstone project this year.  Lean Six Sigma is such a practical skill to have, and the Gordon Institute offered me a certificate for completion of the course.  Being able to cross-register between schools like that is an oft-overlooked Fletcher benefit.  Overall, I recommend taking five credits each semester the first year for MIB students because – even though it was stressful with internship hunting – I’m even busier spring semester this year!

Summer Internship
Global Sustainability, YUM! Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut), Louisville, KY

I was blessed with a wonderful summer internship at YUM! Brands.  Thanks to some networking and hard work, I landed a position on the Global Sustainability team, where I reported directly to the Chief Sustainability Officer on water stewardship and ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) Investor Relations strategies.  You can read more about my internship here, so I’ll spare the details.  What’s worth noting is: I was able to transition to the private sector; after living abroad for two and a half years, I really enjoyed working at home; and I received my internship offer only a few weeks before the semester ended.  People spend most of spring semester at Fletcher worrying themselves away about internships.  Overall lesson: don’t do that to yourself!  It all works out in the end.

Semester Three (4 Credits)

Ah, the last year of graduate school.  It was time to take it easier with four credits so that I could pursue a part-time job.  I ended up obtaining a great position as an intern ESG analyst at Breckinridge Capital Advisors – a $22 billion investment advisor in downtown Boston.  You can read about how much I enjoyed breaking out of the Fletcher “bubble” to commute downtown and try my hand at investment management here.  I would definitely suggest waiting until second year to pursue a significant internship, though it was hard to balance with the intense set of Corporate Law classes listed above.  I was pleased with the classes used to fill my International Business & Economic Law concentration – especially Mergers & Acquisitions – but it was probably too much to enroll in them all at once.  Spread them out!  By my third semester, I was also winding down my leadership of Fletcher’s Net Impact Club, as well, so I recommend throwing yourself into club activities and leadership roles in the first year while you can.

Semester Four (4 Credits)

In my final semester, I’ve chosen to enroll in a lighter course load with a capstone-based independent study course to give myself the time I need to continue interning at Breckinridge, apply for jobs, and complete a really awesome capstone project and report.  My internship at Breckinridge lets me solidify my new learning from graduate school, and applying for jobs has been a full-time job in itself!  Soon, I hope to return to my hometown in Kentucky to work for a company in the corporate responsibility or investor relations space.  My activities at Fletcher continue to keep me in touch with companies I’d like to work for – my colleagues from my internship at YUM! Brands will come to Boston in February for a Net Impact Career Summit I’ve helped plan — and my capstone project will send me back to Brussels and Amsterdam this month to do field research for my Brown-Forman business proposal.  It’s all coming to an end so fast.  I’m excited for what’s ahead, and I hope to finish the semester strong!

Ali, ski trip

Ali, second from right, on January’s student-organized ski trip.

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The final update on the fall 2015 semester comes from Tatsuo, who, like Ali and Aditi, took a heavy course load last semester.  In fact, I would describe it as an extremely challenging semester for anyone, and particularly for a non-native English speaker just starting his Fletcher studies.

In my first semester at Fletcher, I took four courses: Law and Development; Development Economics: Policy Analysis; Foundations in Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance; and Crisis Management and Complex Emergencies.  Every course was interesting, but especially Law and Development, which was one of the reasons that I chose the School.  Thus, I want to introduce the course in this post.

Tatsuo and his Law and Development reading group.

Law and Development dealt with development theory and implementation of development policies from the legal perspective.  It was an interdisciplinary fusion of international development and legal studies.  The combination of two fields, law and international relations, is characteristic of one of the unique qualities of The Fletcher School of “Law and Diplomacy.”  In the course, some students did not have legal expertise or practical experience; therefore, the legal materials that we reviewed in the class were not too difficult or specialized.  But I hardly felt bored in the class, although I have five years’ experience as a legal officer, managing legislation and implementing laws and orders.

I found the class engaging for a few reasons.  First, I was a beginner in international development studies.  Thinking about how we could manage issues of international development through legal schemes and techniques was very exciting and helpful for my future career when I will be involved in regional development as a public legal officer.

Second, and more importantly, the course gave us opportunities to think about fundamental questions of law.  Developing countries and regions tend not to have adequate legal schemes, bureaucracies, or precedents.  Thus, they cannot rely on routine procedures or ways of thinking, and they face fundamental questions that we, developed countries’ officers, likely ignore.  What is law?  What is a court?  What is justice?  What is development?  Some people think that these questions are not practical, but I certainly do not agree with them.  In interdisciplinary or emergency cases, including one I have experienced personally, we have to face such questions.  Just after the Great Japan Earthquake in 2011, we wanted to skip or abolish many legal procedures for rapid rescue and recovery.  However, even in this emergency situation, in order to evade these established legal schemes, we needed to identify truly necessary legal procedures.  I remember that we discussed “What is the government?” and “To what extent could we pursue coercive actions without any democratic or legal procedures?” in those chaotic days.

The professor of the Law and Development course is Jeswald Salacuse.  He has a great reputation both in practical fields (the former president of international arbitration tribunals of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes) and academia (he is also a former dean of The Fletcher School and the founding President of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs).  In previous work as a legal assistant, he actually pursued law and development issues in developing countries.  As a result, his lectures incorporated not only theoretical and text-based knowledge but also vivid recollections of experiences in the field.  Although he has had such a prestigious career, he was very friendly and approachable for his students.  His class was one of the largest lecture classes at Fletcher, but even with about 30 to 40 students in the class, I did not feel any difficulty asking questions.  Professor Salacuse also seemed to like interactive lectures.  Additionally even outside the class, the professor kindly helped me with class assignments and papers.

The course dealt with vast areas of law and development.  Reading assignments were huge, especially for non-native English speakers like me, so I organized a reading group with other five students.  We read and summarized each assigned reading and discussed them each weekend.  That was very helpful for understanding background material for the course, and the discussions with students who have diverse backgrounds were also really interesting.

One thing about the course that I regret was my decision to write a paper.  We were offered the choice of taking a final exam or writing a research paper.  I chose to write the paper.  During the first half of the semester, I was struggling to manage the course’s assignments, and I wasn’t able to start writing until after mid-term exams.  That meant that writing my draft of the paper overlapped with presentations for final presentations, exams, and papers for my other courses.  If my schedule management had worked better, I could have done more to improve the final version.  Although I did not receive the grade I had hoped for on the report, it was the only thing I regret about the course.

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